It was a date with my daughter to go hunting and shortly after day break we realized we would be chasing some foggy pheasants.
The temps were just right and the usual quick 30 minute drive to our hunting grounds proved to be more like a 1 hour drive due to the slow traffic with low visibility. I had some concerns as our time was limited so I was really hoping the fog would lift and allow my daughter and I some time to hunt. She’s only five so the only spot I knew we could tackle was the spot where a buddy and I had a triple a couple weeks ago. On the drive down, we had already seen a dozen pheasants up near the highway. Our sudden appearance was a shock to them as much as it was for us to see them as they ran and flushed back to the safety of the CRP a few yards away.
Knowing the crops were getting harvested, I didn’t know if the standing corn would be gone or not in our spot. Well it would be difficult to even tell pulling up to the spot as the visibility was less than a 100 yards. There was no wind – complete still. Another factor that was against us and my daughter is at that age and has to ask a lot of questions so sneaking the pheasants today was not going to be an option.
To reduce the walking time of my daughter, I parked midway down the dirt road unlike our usual approach at this field. Getting right to the spot to save her little legs and not tire her out as quickly. This first spot was the exact spot where I know the birds here hold up and the same spot my buddy and I shot our triple a few weeks before. When we rolled up, I could finally see that the corn was gone and the ground already worked. Not what I was looking forward to because the worked up ground makes it that much more effort to walk across the open 300 yards to the dried up slough. Any surprise we had over that 300 yards was ruined as my daughter laughed about Ellie (our yellow lab) stopping and peeing and running at the same time. Something she normally does when she’s excited to chase some pheasants.
Ellie is a pointing lab and was immediately “birdy” and stopping and sniffing the air and proceeding with caution to lock in the hiding pheasant. I readied my Cynergy for a hen or rooster to flush as she finally locked up but something was off…Ellie was locked but her head was still searching. There would be many more situations like this as we continued and I was getting annoyed. I knew hunting alone in a larger piece like this would be a challenge but considering the other fields I hunt, I knew this one held a lot of birds and had the small narrow passage between cattails and field edge for us to walk easily without too much effort.
The cattails and grass were real wet and I knew birds were around which was holding their scent and likely frustrating Ellie just as much. We ended up seeing a lot more birds as the fog slowly disappeared as the walk went on. A lot of hens grouped up flushed about 75 yards out. Hoping some held tight, we approached quietly and Ellie pointed the spots where they took flight earlier and 3 more hens busted to the air and a Rooster that likely ran from that spot while we approached but too far out of range. His cackle gave him away as he flew off like he was laughing at his narrow escape.
My daughters legs were growing tired as we trudged through more of this field as we stocked some of the spots those hens headed to in hopes they would lead us to their male counterparts. That plan did work out but again, her questions and laughs spooked a couple more roosters far off. Debating chasing them and evaluating her requests of how far the truck was away from us, I knew I couldn’t pursue them and hoped that our journey back around the other side of the slough would prove successful. It was not. A few more hen flushes after many false points I was ready for the day to be done.
As we neared the truck, I noticed across the open field that a harvested corn field had about a dozen birds flying across it to a slough a few hundred yards away from the truck. The rooster crow shortly before tipped me off that there were birds in that direction. I schemed a plan to drop my daughter off at the truck, she was hungry and wanted her snack and said she wanted to watch me with her binoculars. After getting her set up with her snack and binocs, I set off across the corn stubble to the small secluded slough I saw them land in.
During my walk out there, I noticed things were starting to look up for me. A slight breeze came up from the south so I adjusted my approach and shifted to the north side with Ellie. Just a few yards out, Ellie was already birdy. This was a narrow but fairly long slough so I was really feeling good about this situation. I would hang out on the north side and let Ellie’s nose pick up any scent being blown across. Again, same results, another false point after another. I trampled down the areas she was locked in on. I figured they heard us coming and ran to end. I didn’t get excited and hurry, I kept a slow approach not to walk over any of these hunkered down birds but as I neared the bottle necked end, gun at the ready and Ellie still intensely birdy and nothing. I have never seen her so disappointed. I’m sure she was already mad at me for the previous hen flushes and no gun fire.
I noticed another couple smaller sloughs I could pick up on the walk back to the truck and the very last one, I was just at the point of being done and could tell Ellie was too until she started acting even differently, she just caught a wiff of something and took off running. This wasn’t normal and through a more bare batch of grass, I caught a glimpse of a rooster head down running from her and it took flight. For a dog who has always typically pointed, I’m sure she could have cared less at this point and didn’t want a wasted chance again. A nice left to right flight, I pulled the trigger and the second year rooster fell into the corn stubble and Ellie tackled it like a linebacker sacking a quarterback. She was relieved.
On the drive home I couldn’t help but think that perhaps I should have just turned around and stayed home as I’ve heard that wet conditions prove to make matter worse when chasing the wise roosters. But a father/daughter date had been planned and it’s hard to say sorry to a big pair of brown eyes. She had her monster cookie and evidence of chocolate chip on her cheeks to prove it. She curled up in jacket and orange vest and crashed shortly after getting back on the road for home.
Perhaps use this as a lesson learned or adjust your expectations if you’ve made a long journey for a long anticipated hunt but hunting foggy pheasants will torture you and your bird dog. I’m not sure what I could have done differently but for my daughter, our lab and myself, we were happy to bring home at least one trophy. I just wished my daughter could have seen this flush watching with her binoculars or better yet, in person. But no regrets.
I used #6 Prairie Storm by Federal. Browning Cyngery 12 gauge. The temps started at 43 and on the way home they were 52. No wind to start which then turned to a slight breeze out of the south.